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National Volunteer Week 2024 : Celebrating Our Volunteers

Apr. 15 2024

United for Literacy, formerly Frontier College, relies on its network of volunteers to spread its mission of literacy and learning across Canada.

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is Every Moment Matters, which is an excellent reminder that small actions can make a big difference. Sometimes we may feel like there are so many issues affecting our communities and world that there’s nothing we can do about it. But giving a few moments each week can have a positive effect on a person’s life. Moment by moment, person by person, volunteers are building a better world. This National Volunteer Week, as we celebrate 125 years of United for Literacy, we thank every person who gives their time to helping others, and we are shining a light on some special United for Literacy volunteers.

United for Literacy employees and interns across the country who work closely with our volunteers shared the following stories about people who are empowering others through literacy. 

Interesting in supporting our mission? Find out more about volunteering with United for Literacy.   

Anne, volunteer with the 1:1 Reading Support Program, Grande Prairie, AB

For the past two years, Anne has been a valued volunteer in our 1:1 Reading Support Program at Mother Teresa Catholic School. Granted, this is only a small chapter of her story, as she has dedicated more than 25 years to working with youth in the school system. Her compassion and care do not go unnoticed amongst her colleagues and, more so, her students. You can see their smiles and eyes light up when Anne walks into the classroom. Even on days she is not at the school, the learners check to make sure she will be back soon! It is a highlight of their week knowing she is here for them. Anne is a gentle and positive guide, quick to adapt to whatever the day may bring. She encourages her students to grow by reminding them that learning and making mistakes are part of the journey. We admire Anne for always honouring and appreciating students for who they are and facilitating her sessions accordingly. Listening to their giggles and banter as they work together is true music and magic. 

- Testimonial from Morgan, Community Coordinator, Grande Prairie, AB 

Joe, volunteer with After-school Reading Circles, Winnipeg, MB

I began working for United for Literacy in October 2023. Joe was one of the first volunteers I interacted with, and from the beginning he made me feel like a part of the team. Joe is extremely reliable. His unwavering dedication to the program serves as a source of inspiration to not only the other volunteers but also the staff. Joe has the innate ability to connect with others and make them feel included and confident. Joe gives his whole heart to the children we serve. This is evident in the way that he goes above and beyond each week. Joe is consistently coming up with new ideas for activities and new ways to connect with the children.

As a retired resource teacher, it is no wonder that he carries himself with such exceptional patience and kindness. He understands the unique challenges that children can face and approaches them with understanding, always ready to lend a helping hand.

A few instances come to mind when I think of what sets Joe apart as an outstanding volunteer. The first is his compassion when working with a young boy with autism. He has demonstrated the ability to tailor activities to suit the child’s needs, and over the months I have watched this result in a profound difference in the way this child explores and expresses himself during our Reading Circles. The second is how Joe connects with students through his Indigenous ancestry. During one of our Reading Circles, we read a Cree story. Joe was quick to commence a lively discussion on Indigenous words and culture. Watching the children becoming so animated was a moment I will never forget.

- Testimonial by Katya, United for Literacy intern

Jillian, volunteer with Independent Studies, Toronto, ON

Jillian is the kind of tutor everyone wishes they could have when they are learning a new concept. She listens carefully, breaks down the question at hand, and helps each person feel confident to share their thoughts. Jillian has developed her tutoring skills in over 16 years of volunteering with adult learners in the Independent Studies Program. She has worked in different capacities, tutoring and coordinating small group lessons, and is a calming and friendly presence in our classes each week. Seeing Jillian develop a relatable story to help with a financial literacy problem or draw out a picture to model a fraction demonstrates the creativity that goes into tutoring adult learners. But her work goes beyond building an understanding of the material. Her learners make progress on their goals and continue to come back to the program because they feel heard and understood in all of their work together. 

- Testimonial from Kelsey, Instructor Coordinator - Independent Study Program, Toronto, ON

A woman with glasses and black hair smiles at the camera

Juliette, volunteer with the English Program, Montreal, QC

I would like to share a bit about one of my volunteers: Juliette. She is a young student who recently moved to Montreal to study in this city. From the beginning, her main interest has been to help. I have a lot of respect for people who choose to give back to the community even when they are not surrounded by their own community. 

Juliette is very attentive, responsible, and always doing a little bit more for her learners. But there was a fundamental occasion for me this year that showed me Juliette's character and integrity: her little learner shared that she was being bullied at her school, but nobody seemed to help her. Therefore, she confided in Juliette. Juliette immediately wrote to me and to the coordinator of the community centre that the child attends. We were both able to take matters into our own hands. I was able to communicate with Juliette to reassure her and celebrate her immediate reaction.

Now, we know that the girl is having a follow-up on this matter and that she trusts Juliette very much. I think my admiration and appreciation are born because I believe that Juliette fulfilled the United for Literacy principle: to rely on the tools of the community to make good things happen.

- Testimonial from Nydia, Community Coordinator, Montreal, QC

A young woman with brown hair and a big smile

Bavneet, volunteer leader with Reading For All, Sherbrooke, QC:

Bavneet is a very professional woman. She is highly dedicated to her volunteer work. She has been volunteering with us for three years in various types of roles. Today I will highlight her involvement as the president of our Board of Directors and executive committee*. She is always present at our weekly meetings and always has good ideas to promote our organization within the university community. Currently, she is helping organize a celebration for our 125th anniversary in Sherbrooke. She is seeking funding from relevant parties and she has good community connections. Her contribution has greatly helped us in our relationship with the University of Sherbrooke. Thanks to Bavneet, we are meeting our expectations at the university.  

In her role as a facilitator with young people, Bavneet has had to demonstrate autonomy, ingenuity, and resourcefulness to make the activities enjoyable and thus facilitate constant learning for our learners, while taking into consideration the cultural reality of each individual.

* Bavneet is president of our board of directors with the Université de Sherbrooke.  The executive committee is another university committee to organize events on the campus as a student group. 

- Testimonial from Sahar, Community Coordinator, Sherbrooke, QC

Jean-François, volunteer with the Francization Workshop, Sherbrooke, QC:

Jean-François is a punctual volunteer. He's very organized when it comes to planning activities and organizing information sessions for each workshop. He's involved in the community, aware of the city's social problems, and happy to help where he can.

He is also attentive to the specific needs of each student. He works with two different groups (one with eight learners, the other with nine) and knows each learner’s needs, interests, and progress. He identifies what is required in each workshop and supports the learners according to their needs. Jean-François uses the resources suggested by United for Literacy while looking for other resources to enhance the teaching process and enrich his workshops. The learners really appreciate the time and attention Jean-François gives to his volunteer role.

- Testimonial from Jailton, Instructor-Coordinator, Sherbrooke, QC

Evan, volunteer with the Academic Support Program, Fredericton, NB

Evan started volunteering when he was in Grade 9. Now in Grade 10, Evan has really grown in his role as a volunteer tutor. He shows up weekly to help his peers whether it be in Math or any other school subject that he is comfortable tutoring. If there's a time Evan is unable to attend a tutoring session, he makes sure to let us know. 

Sometimes, if there aren't enough tutors, Evan will tutor two learners at the same time, which is quite a feat. Evan has helped so many of our youth learners, and we appreciate all that he has done for our program.

- Testimonial from Cindy, Community Coordinator, Fredericton, NB

Eunsong, Reading Circle volunteer, Halifax, NS

Our volunteer, Bianca, does an incredible job with the learners in our Reading Circle Club at the George Dixon Community Centre. She not only has an amazing relationship with the learners but has also taken the lead for various sessions.

- Testimonial from Irvana, Program Support, Halifax

A young woman with bangs and long hair

Are you interested in becoming a Program Volunteer to work with children, youth, or adults? Get in touch with your regional office or complete the Volunteer Inquiry Form for more information and to discuss available positions and the time commitment required. 

A grid of four portraits of women volunteers
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